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Menu labelling and healthy food choices: a randomised controlled trial

Renata Carvalho Oliveira (Department of Nutrition, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil)
Ana Carolina Fernandes (Department of Nutrition, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil)
Rossana Pacheco da Costa Proença (Department of Nutrition, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil)
Heather Hartwell (Bournemouth University, Poole, UK)
Vanessa Mello Rodrigues (Departamento de Nutrição, Universidade Federa de Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, Brazil)
Claudia Flemming Colussi (Department of Collective Health, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil)
Giovanna M.R. Fiates (Department of Nutrition, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Brazil)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 3 April 2018

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the effects of different menu labelling formats on healthy food choices in a real restaurant setting.

Design/methodology/approach

This cross-sectional, randomised and controlled parallel-group trial was conducted in Brazil in 2013. In total, 313 university students were randomly assigned to one of three parallel groups with different menu labelling formats. Of these, data from 233 students were analysed. The others did not attend and were excluded. Intervention Group 1 (n=88) received information in the form of a traffic light plus guideline daily amounts, while Intervention Group 2 (n=74) was presented with ingredients list plus highlighted symbols (IL+S). The control group (n=71) received a menu with no menu labelling. Data were collected on one weekday in a restaurant setting. Trial outcomes were assessed by healthy food choices.

Findings

Healthy food choices of students who received the menu showing IL+S were significantly higher when compared to the other groups. This same menu labelling format positively affected healthy food choices in women, not overweight participants and in participants who often ate out more than twice a week.

Originality/value

Menu labelling format presenting ingredients list and highlighted symbols was positively associated with healthy food choices among the university students in Brazil. This type of labelling could be adopted in future legislation on menu labelling in Brazil and around the world.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development in Brazil – Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) for funding (No. 485004/2012-7). The authors also acknowledge the Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education in Brazil – Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) for PhD scholarships granted, PhD international internship scholarship, as well as Senior international internship scholarship. Last, the authors acknowledge Science Without Borders program for the PhD internship scholarship granted and for the Postdoc international scholarship granted. The authors also thank the students for their participation. The present study was supported by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development in Brazil – Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) and the Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education in Brazil – CAPES, Ministry of Education of Brazil, Brasilia, DF, Brazil. The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

Citation

Oliveira, R.C., Fernandes, A.C., da Costa Proença, R.P., Hartwell, H., Rodrigues, V.M., Colussi, C.F. and Fiates, G.M.R. (2018), "Menu labelling and healthy food choices: a randomised controlled trial", British Food Journal, Vol. 120 No. 4, pp. 788-803. https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-04-2017-0248

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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